In my opinion, because the production was in concert form, an
important opportunity was missed: that of performingFidelio uncut and unabridged,
since in Italy it is traditionally shown with major cuts in the spoken
parts. I think that spoken moments and even silence have a function in operas like Fidelio. Thus, it would be an interesting rarity to propose Fidelio as spoken and sung in Germany and in many other countries rather than in the version traditionally seen
and heard here. As the traditional Italian version was chosen, also the Leonore No
3 Overture was performed in between the first and second scenes of Act II. This is a device originally proposed
by Gustav Mahler for a purely practical reason: to allow
changing sets from the dark jail scene to the sunny courtyard scene. It is, no doubt,
a magnificent piece capturing the entire opera and its key musical
themes; it also symbolises the ascent from darkness to light and from chains to freedom. Nonetheless, without the need to change sets,
I would have preferred to leave it as a separate concert piece as Beethoven himself did.
In spite of these
general comments and a few remarks on the principals' voices, the production was very good. Under Pappano's baton, the orchestra resounds to its full splendor. Similarly, under
Ciro Visco's direction, the chorus becomes a full protagonist in the prisoners' scene in Act I and the second
part of Act II. Pappano holds a perfect equilibrium between Fidelio's two main
themes — conjugal love and an ethical striving for freedom. The depth of his heart is very Latin, so as a consequence less suited to the first
part, which is almost a Mozart/Da Ponte play about the love of the jailer's daughter for the new boy who has just joined the prison staff.
There are some problems
with the two protagonists's voices: Simon O'Neill (Florestan)
exaggerated, keeping the register quite high; he is an astute professional and knows how to avoid the hardest parts. I do
not know whether Rachel Willis-Sørensen will ever be able to be an effective all round Leonore; she is a light lyricsoprano and at moments such as the great ariaAbscheulicher, wo eilst du hin?
makes major efforts without significant results. Leonore's role requires
a soprano successfully experienced in at least two of the three WagnerianBrünnhilde roles.
On the other hand,
Amanda Forsythe (Marzelline), Maximilian Schmitt (Jaquino), Sebastian
Holecek (Don Pizzarro), Günter Groissböck (Rocco) and Julian Kim (Don
Fernando) were all excellent.